With the recent attention to tobacco-related issues and the upcoming deadline for restaurants to become smoke free, I would like to take this opportunity to provide some information.
Tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of death in Oklahoma and the nation. This state has recently seen several laws regulating tobacco use and smoking resulting in heightened awareness, as well as reduced tobacco consumption. Fewer than 25 percent of Oklahomans smoke. Legislation to prohibit smoking in public places, including restaurants, will effectively protect the health of patrons and employees. Those exposed to secondhand smoke are at the same risk for illness as smokers.
Over 78,000 Oklahoma children already use tobacco. Each day, the equivalent of another classroom gets hooked. Oklahoma voters recently raised the tobacco tax, which will reduce the number of youth who currently use tobacco and prevent many of our young people from becoming regular tobacco users.
Public health advocates are not anti-tobacco or anti-smoker. They are pro-health and committed to providing effective ways to protect and promote the health of all Oklahomans. The rights of smokers and other tobacco users are not being taken away. The health of our citizens is being protected.
Our Constitution makes provisions for the health of the people of Oklahoma and the United States to take precedence over human rights and freedom of choice. Everything an individual does that endangers another’s health is regulated: For example drinking and driving, speeding and food preparation.
With continued local support we will remain committed to working toward a healthier Oklahoma.